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Extending PC Lifecycles Not Always Cheaper

The average annual Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a personal computer kept for three years is roughly the same as a PC kept for four to six years, according to a report released Monday by Gartner, Inc .

The report, entitled, "Desktop TCO for Years 4, 5 and 6: Someone Has to Pay," also noted that when extending the lifecycle of desktop PCs from the typical three years to four years or more, operating costs shift from hardware and software expenditures to indirect expenses such as productivity and downtime.

At a time when many enterprises are extending the lifecycle of their desktop PCs, the report indicated that these enterprises may not be saving as much money as anticipated. Through 2006, the report said, 70 percent of all enterprises that extend PC lifecycles will not achieve significant reductions in overall ownership costs.

"In the end, the decision comes down to who pays," said Michael Silver, vice president and research director at Gartner. "Prior to making lifecycle decisions, enterprises must fully understand productivity, opportunity, and migration costs, and come to terms with who is going to incur them."

Specifically, the report noted that although many basic PC deployment costs are included in TCO, major operating system migrations are not. Therefore, if a particular user incurs a high number of migrations because of the shorter life of a PC, higher migration expenditures must be factored in, increasing costs overall.

Enterprises also must understand what factors are not included in TCO but are still important in determining the appropriate desktop lifecycle.

"If an end-user can find real business benefit in having a faster or newer PC, enterprises should quantify those benefits and build a business case to reduce the lifecycle toward three years," said Leslie Fiering, a research vice president at the Framingham, Mass.-based research and advisory firm. "Enterprises must consider that keeping PCs longer probably will result in greater hardware and operating system diversity."

Overall, the eight Gartner analysts who collaborated on the report recommend a four-year desktop cycle for mainstream PC workers and a desktop lifecycle of three years or less for high-performance users. The analysts advise trying to extend the lifecycle to five years for fixed-function systems only where the application load is limited and does not change.